Aim: To investigate the prospective effects of weight perception of self and weight comments by others on psychological health problems among Chinese adolescents.
Methods: In the Hong Kong Student Obesity Surveillance project, 8716 adolescents (41.3% boys) aged 14.2 ± 1.7 years were followed prospectively. Logistic regression yielded odds ratios (ORs) for psychological health problems at 1-year follow-up by weight comments received and weight perception at baseline (2006), adjusting for each other sociodemographic factors and body mass index.
Results: Perceived fatness at baseline predicted subsequent headache and feeling stressful with adjusted ORs (95% confidence intervals) of 1.17 (1.03–1.33) and 1.20 (1.03–1.39), respectively. Perceived thinness at baseline did not predict any subsequent health problems. Receiving incorrect weight comments at baseline also predicted headache, feeling stressful and feeling depressed at follow-up, with adjusted ORs of 1.19 (1.08–1.31), 1.26 (1.04–1.53) and 1.38 (1.10–1.74) respectively. No gender difference was found in the effects of weight perception and weight comments on psychological outcomes.
Conclusions: In adolescents, perceived fatness and incorrect weight comments predicted psychological health problems at 1-year follow-up. Family members, peers and other social contacts should realize the potential adverse effects of their weight comments, and adolescents should be taught how to correctly assess their weight status.